Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The way forward for Islamicism

Well, the referendum happened here. And now one could, I suppose, reasonably construct an argument that the government of Turkey is turning towards Islamicism. And when I say "reasonably construct" I mean make a thin argument, but not quite "Saudi Royal Family is Jewish" thin. But depending on who the new court appointees are, depending on the trajectory the Evren trial takes...yeah, things could be done in a way that it could arguably be construed as quite possibly something that smells like Islamicism. And even then, its not Islamicism as it is demonized in the US. Because Islamicism, in all of its shades, is no more constricting or structural a political ideology than, say, "Realism" or "Libertarianism"

And you will hear / have heard plenty of mischaracterizations of Islamicism if you're in the US. Which I mean, of course. There are too few Muslims and too many political points to be scored by vilifying the concept. And considering that the only people who really understand the concept are academics who wouldn't be caught dead running for office, you have a lot of misunderstandings. And I should note, I'm not one of these academics. I'm in professional school, and taking a break from that, for Christ's sake. So that's the US. What I think is neat is that you can run into people in Turkey, full of 70 million Muslims and run by a nominally Islamicist government who have no clue what Islamicism means. And you can run into people whose jobs it are to explain Turkey...who have no clue what they're talking about. I was mocked today for being idealistic and all, and perhaps my idealism is dying a slow, strangulated death. But come on people, this is on the internet. It ain't that hard.

So you can find any amount of hatred of Islam online. Really. Start with Martin Peretz and go from there. Or, yknow, just stick with Martin Peretz. But that's easy. And boring. So let's find stuff that shows how Islamicism works. How will I define Islamicism? Lets just say that its politics motivated by Muslim religion. State-building through your religion. Which happens to be Islam. To be fair, we can easily say that the Bush and Obama presidencies are definitely shaped by Christianity. So it would follow that Muslim countries, with Muslim leaders, may allow Islam to shape their leaderships.

And there are people who study this, believe you me. And they aren't necessary the people who live on bases and play hockey. And not to get Foustcu, but no, not you Matthew Hoh. I'd lean more to, y'know, a dude studying Islamic Law in application like Jeff Redding. Or maybe one day, even me ::bats eyelashes::.

 But to finally get to my point, looking at the world as a Muslim does not make you an extremist. At the most, it makes you human. And there is something that is easily forgotten by those of us within an incredibly rational albeit unintentionally hilarious court system...Islam is a rational religion and operates through a set of structured, if flexible, rules. It's a guideline for life, of course. Which is more than can be said for any sort of backwater oligarchy or kleptomaniac chaos.

So when you see reasonable arguments for installing a but more Islamic Law in the (Islamic Republic of, don't forget) Afghanistan, realize that it is not about "installing a system of law" but it is about codifying law that people are following anyways. The question of what type and kinds of law ISAF are going to allow is interesting, and is worth following. As is of course, most everything going on about Afghanistan. But just remember that unless whole entire education system is revamped in a matter the Soviets could not manage/stomach, its a matter of finding laws that fit the culture. And not in a gawking-at-silly-CAsians sort of way, but in a stupid-laws-get-broken way. The political system is screwy enough as is, even if it will change markedly after 2012 or so. But don't forget that a little bit of Diplomatic outrage can't solve too much. As Mr. Foust has so eloquently said before:
The crime here is not that a law is being passed to normalize a routine practice; it is that this was a routine practice and we chose not to care about it in the first place.
Tajikistan is not Afghanistan, of course. And Islamic Family Law is so so so much different than other courses of Islamic Law, so its tough to even really encompass it in the same blog post. But its my blog, so I can. Shari'a as it affects family disputes, simply, works. And it's not nearly as scary for women as it is sometimes construed to be. In fact, women tend to bring up divorce cases in Shari'a law because they actually get results, where as in civil law cases tend to disappear into the aether. Again, don't take my word on this, take Mr. Redding's. India is of course not Tajikistan, but its a whole lot easier to find information on, so you should check it out.

And Islamic Banking? Man, don't even get me started on Islamic Banking. After the whole catastrophic meltdown of the Afghanistan Central Bank, Islamic Banking sure looks mighty good o'er there. But, um, let us not forget. Islam is not a forcefield of perfect.

And to finally come back a bit closer to home. This article, about how the PKK is killing imams, makes no sense whatsoever. The PKK stopped killing Kurds way back in the '80s. Of course, since Apo has been imprisoned, the PKK as we knew it splintered. But I suppose the dead imams may not be Kurds. And I suppose one could make the argument that imams are being killed because they are representatives of the state (in Turkey, imams are selected and distributed by the State-run Dept. of Religious Affairs).

But it just doesn't make sense. It would make more sense, I think, that Zaman is just getting some knocks in at the PKK and pimping their Islamicist vibe. They need to talk about the plight of Believers in Turkey in order to appeal to their financing. But with the Fundamentalist funding that the PKK has received lately...they don't look too good killing imams. I don't know. It's weird. I don't get it, and there doesn't seem to be much evidence for it. I'm not calling for a look into conspiracy, y'know.

Post-Referendum, there's plenty of talk about Turkey "Turning Islam" to some sort of degree. But when you can talk about people killing imams in your country...yeah, probably not. And it's hardly like that's the only reason why not. But Turkey is hardly Afghanistan and Tajikistan.You probably don't need me to tell you that. But even the degree of Islamicism that the AKP adheres to is a completely different degree of a completely different flavor of Islam than in the above examples.

So I wrote this to give an offer of the flavors of Islamicism and Islamic law we're talking about. And as you can see, there really isn't a terrific thread weaving it all together. That's not solely the fault of my writing style, that's the fault of the "rising tide of ISLAM" theory as well. It's just too disjointed of a theory for that. You won't even see any Islamicist International like the old Communist Internationals of yore.

Well thought-out, properly-executed, careful application of Islamic practices to statecraft are really nothing to be afraid of. And when it's done with a goal in mind...it usually works. Sloppy yell-Islam isn't going to do anything good, of course, but any sort of sloppy ideology usually sucks. That's not new or only for Muslims.

Applied Islamicism is going to happen. There's just too much excitement in it, teeth-gnashing under Neo-Classical columns aside. So it doesn't seem to make sense to be afraid of it. Seems to make more sense to see what one can do to help it be done well. It'll take an awful lot of regional specialists, lawyers, architects, designers, and other some-such young professionals to do. And lets face it, we ain't getting employed otherwise.

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